Two Niagara College students recently became provincial champions and earned a spot on Team Ontario after first-place wins at the 2022 Skills Ontario Competition.
Game Development and Welding Technician students struck gold as first-place winners in the 3D Digital Game Art and Welding competitions respectively, paving the way for them to compete at the Skills Canada National Competition at the end of May.
In addition to achieving two top wins, NC students captured second place in 3D Game Art, third place in Carpentry, and fourth place in Welding.
“It’s an extraordinary experience for our students to put their skills to the test alongside the top students in Ontario and we applaud their exemplary achievements,” said Vincent Van Schaik, dean of the School of Media, Trades and Technology. “To see so many of our students shine on the provincial stage is testament to the quality applied education they gain at NC, along with the vital support from our faculty and staff who are dedicated to helping them achieve their dreams.”
3D Digital Game Art
Two students proved they were ahead of the game in the 3D Digital Game Art competition, by securing both first and second place for NC.
Game Development student Matt Mackie (Grimsby) won first place, and Sara Zolnierczyk (Mississauga) from the joint NC-Brock UniversityBachelor of Arts (Honours) Game Design program, achieved second place. Both students have recently completed their final year of studies and will graduate this spring.
“While we have seen colleges take first and second in some contests each year, this is not an easy feat,” said Emina Zukančić, manager of Communications, Skills Ontario. “3D Digital Game Art is a fairly new contest and we congratulate Niagara College competitors for taking two spots on the podium in 2022.”
Racing against the clock, students faced the challenge of creating a 3D model of a butler robot and a base for it to stand on, based on concept art provided. The model was required to be UV unwrapped, textured and displayed. And it all had to be completed within eight hours.
“I didn’t really expect to win based on how challenging the competition was,” said Mackie. “Now that I have, I’m just overjoyed … this reaffirms all the skills I’ve gained over the past three years, making me very proud of myself for being able to provide them in such a unique experience like this.”
“For me, winning second place is a stimulation to get better and it has made me even more determined to continue in the lifelong journey of mastering my 3D modeling skills,” said Zolnierczyk. “I am so incredibly grateful to have gotten this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience this competition and test my limits.”
Passionate about games since childhood, both students enrolled at NC to help turn their interest into a potential career. They attributed their recent success to the experience they gained at the College and support they received from faculty.
“When I started this program, I struggled to make a chair in 3D. Now I’m able to make a full character model in a day if that’s what I have to do. That’s all thanks to the skills and techniques I acquired during my time in the program,” said Mackie. “The best part, for me, is that you never really stop learning new techniques that make you better at what you do.”
“It’s certainly thrilling to see our students finish first and second in a province-wide competition such as this,” said Charles Kopun, associate dean of Media. “Competing at this level requires passion, dedication an a lot of work outside the classroom, and that’s always gratifying to see.”
School of Media professor Rick Goertz applauded the students for their achievement, noting that they were selected to compete by faculty based on their attitude, passion and skillset in digital art. He noted that NC game students are encouraged to participate in game jams, competitions and other related events to extend their experience and improve their overall skill set.
“Any time students have a chance to practice their craft it is an enhancing experience,” said Goertz.
Jake Boekestyn (Niagara-on-the-Lake), who is graduating from Welding Technician this spring, showed his true mettle in the provincial competition, winning gold in welding.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for Jake. On behalf of the School of Trades at Niagara College, we wish him congratulations and are thrilled to see him compete in the upcoming Canada-wide competition,” said Jeff Murrell, associate dean, School of Trades.
Boekestyn was tasked with two simultaneous welding projects using a variety of materials – including mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum – and welding processes he learned in the program.
“Competing in the day-long competition was fun for me. I liked the whole process of fabricating and welding the projects,” said Boekestyn, who explained that his NC program prepared him with the ability to weld using different processes and positions. “I benefitted from the support of my instructors so much from the excellent tips and tricks that made fabricating and welding faster and more precise.”
The competition followed months of preparation, training, and coaching with faculty in NC’s School of Trades.
Boekestyn was one of two NC students to take on the seven-hour welding challenge. Welding Technician student Ian Mehlenbacher placed fourth.
“The maturity and resiliency of our students was second to none,” said Ryan, who explained that competitors had to commit to an intense training schedule including weekends for three months, all while juggling the demands of their full-time program.
Boekestyn said he is honoured to compete at nationals with the support of friends, family and NC faculty and leveraging his experience working with a metal artist and a stair and railing company.
“It helps me bring the art out in the structures I build, and also the ability to turn drawings into three-dimensional objects,” he said.
Carpentry and Renovation Technician student Scott Sparks placed third in the Carpentry competition. Sparks has completed his final term in the program.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Scott,” said program coordinator, Annette Dearling-Manchester. “Not only did he win at Skills Ontario but he has been an outstanding student.”
From provincial to national
On the heels of the Skills Ontario Competition – which was held virtually from April 19-29 – both Mackie and Boekestyn will advance to the Skills Canada National Competition, which will be held from May 25-28 in Vancouver.
Cheer on NC’s student members of Team Ontario, representing the most talented students in the province – by following Team Ontario’s trip to nationals in real time @skillsontario on Twitter and ‘Skills Canada – Ontario’ on Facebook. Visit skillsontario.com and skillscanada.com for details.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
Jake_Boekestyn1: Jake Boekestyn, who is graduating from Welding Technician this spring, won gold at the Skills Ontario Competition and will go on compete in Vancouver at the Skills Canada National Competition.
Matt Mackie: Matt Mackie, who is graduating from NC’s Game Development this spring, placed first in the 3D Digital Game Competition at Skills Ontario. He will join Team Ontario to compete at Skills Canada.
Sarah Zolnierczyk: Sarah Zolnierczyk, who is graduating from the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Game Design program this spring, won second place in the Skills Ontario 3D Digital Game Competition.